Encouraging more women to pursue and thrive in careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), requires the leaders of today to mentor the next generation so they see STEM as a viable career path.
This was one of the messages highlighted by Laurie Swami, President and CEO of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) upon accepting the 2022 Mentor of the Year Award at the 2022 Women in Nuclear (WiN) Canada annual conference. Ms. Swami was recognized for being an active supporter of women and young girls pursuing STEM throughout her career.
In addition to championing mentorship at the NWMO, she is role model to many in the nuclear industry. She is known for giving her time freely to support women in their careers and for her involvement in programs such as the WiN Canada mentoring program, the Ontario Tech University Women for STEM program and the Nuclear Energy Association mentoring program.
Women make up less than 25 per cent of people employed in STEM careers and, according to Statistics Canada, while 34 per cent of Canadians with a STEM degree are women, they make up only 23 per cent of Canadians working in science and technology.
“We need to mentor women to become the next generation of strong, compassionate leaders – leaders who can guide our industry forward through changing social, environmental and economic conditions,” said Ms. Swami. “Diversity is important – bringing different worldviews and experiences together makes our work better.”
“I’ve personally benefitted from the mentorship of the ground-breaking women in nuclear that have come before me and look forward to a future where even more women enter the nuclear industry and become leaders.”
Mentorship is also critical to the success of the NWMO because Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of the country’s used nuclear fuel inside a deep geological repository is a multi-generational project.
“I’m proud to call myself a STEMinist – committed to fostering increased diversity across all the fields of STEM,” Ms. Swami added. “That starts at the NWMO. More than half our board is made up of women, and the leadership team is quite diverse, more than 40 per cent are women and comprised of visible minorities and Indigenous people. But there is always more we can do.”
As part of its commitment to diversity and mentoring the next generation of leaders to bring different worldviews and experiences together, the NWMO is a signatory to the Leadership Accord on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Equal by 30. These commitments to advance, integrate and prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion have been signed by Ms. Swami and other members of the NWMO’s senior leadership team. These programs work toward equal pay, equal leadership and equal opportunities for women in the clean energy sector by 2030.
In addition to Ms. Swami, who is one of only three women leading nuclear organizations in Canada, the NWMO team includes some of the nuclear sector’s leading women subject matter experts like Karine Glenn, Director, Impact Assessment and Rebekah Wilson, Reconciliation Coordinator, who led sessions at the WiN Conference.
Karine Glenn, a professional engineer, with over 20 years of experience in the nuclear sector shared highlights of the NWMO’s innovative and award-winning engagement approaches for developing Canada’s Integrated Strategy for Radioactive Waste.
Rebekah Wilson, along with Elder Diane Longboat and Elder Donna Augustine, who are members of the NWMO's Council of Knowledge Holders, led an interactive workshop about personal identity and relationship to land through a Reconciliation lens.
The NWMO was also proud to be a sponsor of the 2022 WiN conference and looks forward to continuing to support mentorship opportunities for women in STEM to support the next generation of leaders.